Pubdate: Thu, 15 Nov 2007
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Copyright: 2007 The Albany Herald Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: J.D. Sumner
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


If adopted, a random drug testing program would begin in the fall of
next year, school officials say.

TIFTON -- The Tift County School Board is considering a  measure that
would require some students in the system  to undergo random drug
testing, school officials said.

The measure, which was offered as its first reading to  school board
members Tuesday night, is far from a  final, polished product, schools
superintendent Patrick  Atwater said.

It would allow for the random testing of students who  participate in
extracurricular activities in grades  7-9, Atwater said.

"This is meant to be specifically a deterrent," Atwater  said. "In the
case a child is found to be positive of  one of the drugs tested for,
they would be asked to get  help and then be subjected to mandatory
follow-up  screenings."

The proposal would require students who participate in
extracurricular activities, such as sports or band, to  sign a consent
form to allow for random testing.

Those tests would check for anything from illicit  street drugs to
performance-enhancing drugs and  metabolic steroids and would be
administered on an  unannounced basis at the schools, Atwater said.

"Only the head of the activity, be it a coach or FFA  director or
what, the principal and the student and  their parents would be
notified of the results,"  Atwater said. "The information would be
kept in the  strictest of confidentiality."

Should a banned substance be detected, Atwater says  that no academic
punishment will be levied; instead,  follow-up screenings and punitive
action would be taken  in the realm of the extracurricular activity.

As an example, if a student-athlete who played  basketball failed the
test, he would be required to  take a follow-up test and could be
forced to sit out as  much as 20 percent of the remaining games. The
consequences, however, are still being worked out,  Atwater said.

Atwater said that the genesis of the program came from  Tift County
Head Football Coach Jay Walls, who  expressed concern that some of his
athletes may be  using banned substances.

 From there, Atwater and other school officials expanded  the idea to
encompass all students engaging in  extracurricular activities.

The School Board will now take a month to read through  the provisions
of the proposal and then respond with  questions and concerns before
the second reading at the  board's December meeting.

If adopted, the rule would go into effect next fall,  Atwater

School systems have long wanted some form of drug  testing, especially
for athletes and allegations of  steroid use, but many systems have
forgoed the policy  because of many factors, Dougherty County Athletic
  Director Johnny Seabrooks said.

"In Florida, the legislators gave the high school  association
$100,000 to test the athletes for drugs and  steroids," Seabrooks
said. "But the problem was that it  was so expensive that when that
money ran out, they  were out."

Seabrooks said that when discussions about steroid use  peaked after
the death of WWE wrestler Chris Benoit's  death earlier this year, he
made some phone calls to  inquire about the feasibility of adopting a
drug and  steroid testing program, but learned it was a lot more
difficult than he expected.

"There is just so much more to it," Seabrooks said.  "There are the
cost issues but then there are privacy  issues and legal challenges
and the appeals process, so  it's just a big deal."

Atwater believes that some system is needed to serve as  a deterrent
to those who feel the need to use drugs and  participate in the Tift
County Schools programs.

"We're not out there to catch all the students and lock  them away,"
Atwater said. "We simply want to send a  message and hopefully this
will serve as a strong  enough deterrent to steer students away from

A similar program has been in place in the Colquitt  County School
System for several years.
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